IT Director: The Necessary Skills To Succeed. The perspective of the Headhunter

by Riccardo Melocchi – International Team Leader at Kilpatrick

The times of the old figure of the IT Director seen as a person who, within the company, was mainly involved with system back-ups, printers that didn’t work and computer that didn’t turn on are long gone. Websites, worldwide faster and more efficient connection systems and especially the digital transformation have definitively reshaped the role of the IT Director.

Today, in the digital age, the IT department is not only responsible for introducing cutting-edge technologies and consequently for their use, in fact the IT Director has a holistic view of the entire business.
Therefore – as claimed by BILL BRIGGS, Group CTO in Deloitte – even as competencies such as data science, systems architecture and machine learning remain critical, technologists must improve their people – and strategy – focused skills and think more holistically about the business to be able to articulate the value of programs that will drive real change at scale.


Consequently, it is not enough to be technically adept, IT Directors have to success at soft skills as well.


Now that said, there are 10 important soft skills IT Directors need to master: 

  1. PROBLEM SOLVING

Problem solving is an essential soft skill that must be understood as the sum of the skills and abilities involved in the resolution of problems observed at 360 degrees.

For the IT Directorit means understanding the challenges of the business in which they work and proposing technical solutions (and not only) that facilitate the development and achievement of business objectives, improving speed, safety, cost-saving and synergy among stakeholder.

  • CRITICAL THINKING

Critical thinking is a soft skill necessary to work independently and develop ideas, it refers also to the ability to analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment. 

For the IT Directorit means broadening his knowledge, both in the technological field, through constant updating in a rapidly evolving market, and extending his interests in other fields.

  • CREATIVITY

In the age of Artificial Intelligence, human creativitywill become a company’s biggest resource and competitive advantage, in fact, it refers to the ability to sense and propose ideas, solutions, strategies, different paths than those previously followed. This concept must be understood also as a change of course or diversification.For the IT Directorit means being able to change the “status quo”, introducing concepts, methodologies or approaches that are new in his working environment (e.g. Agile Methodologies, SaaS, IaaS, PaaS,…)

  • PEOPLE MANAGEMENT
    Managing people is not easy. Above all, it means establishing a collaboration based on the motivations and the valorization of the team, one of the most important skill that one should learn for long-term success.

For the IT Director it means being able to be recognized as a leader by his team, attracting and retaining high-potential talents and being able to create, together with HR, stimulating development paths, recognizing the abilities of his team members.

  • TEAM WORKING 
    The ability to work together. Feeling part of a ‘group’ and not just a ‘mixture of people’. Team working is essential in every company in order to achieve challenging and complex goals. The willingness to create and collaborate with other people, not only belonging to their own ‘little’ team, but also with different departments, functions and stakeholders.

For the IT Directorit means operating in a “hands on” way, and not being afraid of getting your hands dirty in more operational activities and at the same time creating relationships with other departments in order to achieve common and business goals, even before technical ones.

  • EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
    Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to distinguish, understand and manage one’s own emotions and the capability to control other’s emotions too. Recognize, in stressful situations, the causes that create tensions and react by limiting the effects on daily actions. And all of this – for a company characterized by working groups – means being able to achieve most likely and in a natural way the objectives on time.

    For the IT Directorit means knowing how to deal, even emotionally, with the hectic evolution of the market, that entails intense responsibilities and workloads. Furthermore, it is necessary to understand and manage the emotional states of the team.

  • JUDGEMENT AND DECISION MAKING

Artificial Intelligence has a serious limitation: indeed, robots are unable to make judgement and decisions. It is crucial to know how to make effective decisions without delaying, in order to analyze the situation or the problem, to identify (or prevent) inappropriate actions.
The accuracy and attention in evaluating each of these actions and the weight they have within each development, are the abilities that allow defining the processes that must be adopted. In this way the events (planned and unexpected) can take place in complete peace as scheduled.

For the IT Directorit means being able to make decisions even in uncertain situations and without immediate data support, to guarantee deadlines and business objectives. In order to do this, it is necessary to trust in employees and other departments.

  • COMMUNICATION
    Conveying ideas and information in a clear and synthetic manner by involving all your interlocutors – combined with listening and mutual discussion – are vital soft skills.

Workplace communication is very important. Indeed, when communication between colleagues does not work, the results are disappointing.

For the IT Directorit means explaining the technical processes in clear and easily understandable terms for customer and stakeholders. Convey complex concepts in a simple way, enhancing the impact of technical choices on the business. 

  • NEGOTIATION AND FLEXIBILITY
    Negotiation is a crucial and complex soft skill that allows to reach a desired agreement without any argument or dispute.
    Being available to listen, being aware of the behaviors and intentions of third parties and knowing how to find win-win compromises.
    Negotiation also entails considerable flexibility in accepting situations but above all conflicting ideas.

    For the IT Director it means both knowing how to relate with suppliers and/or customers to obtain not only technically interesting solutions, but also convenient ones, and to use relationship and communication strategies between departments and management, for the approval of investments and projects.

  • PROACTIVENESS
    In a working relationship – especially if in a group – taking personal initiatives to a greater extent than required is certainly a great skill seriously considered. This ability includes the faculty to identify any shortcomings and the possible areas of improvement in order to achieve the concepts to continuously improve specific skills. 

    For the IT Directorit means facing setback or unexpected changes, ranging from a technical problem to a last-minute problem, sometimes caused by external factors. It is necessary to accept these changes and seek creative solutions, adapting choices and actions.